Photos by Lynne Deliman
McKees Rocks Council President Archie Brinza, Vice President Leslie Walker, Mayor Jack Muhr and others during a March 16 press conference held after the borough filed a lawsuit again ALCOSAN.
By Jamie Wiggan
McKees Rocks filed a lawsuit against the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) March 16, in an effort to halt plans they believe will turn a prime portion of real estate into a sludge-filled open pit.
Officials held a press conference shortly after filing the complaint to further air their grievances. Gathering at the targeted site — the former Jim Crivelli Chevrolet next to the Shoppes at Chartiers Crossing — the mayor and several members of council shared concerns over the project’s impact on their community.
“It’s going to hurt us severely,” said Council President Archie Brinza.
Vice President Leslie Walker said she was particularly concerned for those she represents in Hays Manor, a low-income property they acquired last November for $2.05 million, those at the borough say discussions with the sanitary authority leading up to the lawsuit revealed they intend to use it as a launch site for an underground construction project.
“Imagine a perpetual, massive open-pit 150-feet-deep and as large as a football field that would be the dumping and hauling station for millions of pounds of dirt and sludge for at least five years,” said Brinza.
The 95-page complaint prepared for the borough by Maiello Brungo & Maiello claims these plans will stall recent efforts to rebrand McKees Rocks after decades of post-industrial decline.
It also points to the heavy tax losses to the borough and school district and argues the project will disrupt access to the shopping plaza and lower the quality of life for residents of the nearby Hays Manor housing complex.
Left in the Dark?
Councilmembers Sarah Harvey and Liz Delgado said they were left in the dark about the press conference, only hearing about it the morning of through an email thread circulated by someone, not on council.
The two were absent from a recent executive session where details of the litigation were reportedly discussed and were not looped into the press event planning at any point further along. Both voted to approve the litigation when council held a vote in December 2020.
Delgado said she was told she could not call-in to the meeting remotely because the content was sensitive, despite having been warned by her doctor to avoid public meetings until she receives a coronavirus vaccine because of underlying health conditions.
“I think it’s absurd that they require in-person attendance for executive meetings during a pandemic, which is where they discussed the details [of the ALCOSAN litigation],” she said.
Brinza stands by council’s new policy requiring in-person attendance for sensitive executive sessions, which he said is supported by the borough’s legal advisors. He said the details of the press conference were kept under wraps by the borough’s hired attorney to catch the sanitary authority off guard with the filing, and that even he did not know the plans until a day before the March 16 event.
“We are doing things differently,” said the newly-appointed president. “…They chose not to come to this meeting, [which] was all about that ALCOSAN meeting,” he said. “Should I have called them Tuesday morning? I probably should have. But there was a lot going on.”